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Recruiting Intelligence

Developing a Strategic Plan for International Student Recruitment

Before we dive into today's post, a quick note on some exciting upcoming opportunities to learn and connect.

In October, Intead will be taking a closer look at international student recruitment with two very different and powerful universities in two webinar events. We hope you can join us – we’ll leave time for Q&A!

  • October 5, NAFSA All-Region Summit: UMBC and Intead present “0-60 Internationalization” — Register HERE.
  • October 12, AIRC hosted Webinar: Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Intead present “Shifting Student Perspectives: Digital Marketing Now” — Free to AIRC members and $45 for non-members. Register HERE. (If your institution is not an AIRC member, hit us up for a code and we'll see about getting you past the velvet ropes.)

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Now, about strategic planning for international student enrollment: the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Not so with our adjustment to the pandemic? Or, maybe the old adage continues to hold true.

Digital is more important than ever to attract your future students. Yet personal touch and support through the application process (think recruiting agents) is critical to get prospective students from awareness to enrolled. All that was old is new again.

Standing the Test of Time

Back in 2015, our colleague Lisa Cynamon Mayers (some of you long-time Intead evangelists will remember the wisdom she shared with all of us) wrote a great post about developing a strategic plan for international student recruitment. She spoke with colleagues at SUNY, Southern New Hampshire University, and Full Sail University to specifically compare/contrast what they were finding cost-effective at the time. A few valuable charts emerged as part of the 2014 AIRC conference presentation enrollment leaders shared at that time.

Much of the strategic perspective is timeless in its value to our work in enrollment management. We can see from this look back what remains true despite the changing political winds, health factors, and visa/travel regulations. We’ve made a few 2021 observations alongside the insightful points in Lisa’s 2015 post below.

How does your strategic enrollment plan look when analyzed along these lines? Read on for our valuable compare/contrast perspective. 

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Hey Academic Marketers: Did Apple just bite into your audience?

You’ve got to hand it to Apple – everyone’s paying attention to their iOS 14.5 update. At least, those of us in marketing.

This typically benign move (yawn…another update) has Facebook screaming, “Alert: The sky is falling!” In our experience, most marketers have had their Chicken Little moments over the years. Some more than others. Remember when the movie industry thought VCRs were going to decimate their revenue stream? Or how about Y2K?

But what exactly is it that’s got everyone crying foul (er, fowl)? In short, data. Or, lack thereof.

The new update aims to add transparency to user data tracking. All App Store apps are now required to ask users for permission to access the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a unique tracking code for mobile devices. So, each time an iPhone user downloads an app from the Apple Store, they must actively opt-in to be tracked. If they don’t, the policy prohibits certain data collection and sharing. Apple is positioning the move as protecting the consumer.

Early word from Flurry has it that 94% are opting out. That number is a big deal to businesses who’ve come to rely on this data to optimize, target, and report on tracking pixels, the bits of code that detail user behavior. It’s certainly a big deal to Facebook and Google and to those of us who rely on their insights.

Truthfully, prior to this iOS change, iPhone users already had the ability to opt-out of IDFA, but this move by Apple prompts and forces a user decision and almost everyone is opting out.

While the change only affects Apple’s mobile audience (leaving desktop and Android users alone), that’s still 1 billion active iPhones worldwide, one-fifth of which are in the US. (iOS has notable but significantly less presence in key international student recruiting markets with 44% market share in Saudi Arabia, 36% in Vietnam, 27% in South Korea, 22% in China, 13% in Brazil, 8% in Nigeria, and just 3% in India, per Statcounter GlobalStats.)

As this policy takes hold, academic marketers will have much less insight into the iOS users who are clicking on apps. That inhibits the ability to micro-target, which is a problem.

To know for sure the significance of the iOS update on your campaigns, institutions should compare the percent of traffic that engages through mobile, then the percentage of those who use iOS. This is all readily available through your Google Analytics. The higher the number, the greater the impact the iOS update will have on you. Your lead generation efforts will be affected, but we imagine less so than say e-commerce businesses (think Amazon, Etsy, Target, Best Buy, etc.).

Of course, this isn’t just about privacy. It’s also about money. The big tech players are competing with one another for your ad spend. Remember, Google makes over 80% of its money on advertising, as does Facebook. They want to maintain control. Can we blame them? (Yes, of course we can, and do. Nevertheless…).

And that’s the bigger picture. Marketers who feel like the sky is falling feel that way because they are losing some control over the crux of their campaigns: their audience and their ability to define and target them. The risk the Apple update poses to your institution is your diminishing ability to reach desired audiences accurately and affordably through paid digital channels – primarily in the US. 

So, while the sky may not be falling, do read on to learn how your academic marketing team should respond…

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Mexico

Our 2021 Latin America international student recruiting series has offered insight into the opportunities in Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. Now: Mexico.

Mexican student enrollment in US institutions grew significantly over the last 4 decades. A rising middle class has driven this desire and ability to afford education abroad. In 2020 the number studying in the US stood at roughly 14,350. That figure represents about 50% of all Mexican outbound student mobility.

Not so long ago, during the 2016 US presidential election (remember that?), our market research found that a whopping 80% of Mexican students in our survey told us they would be less inclined to study in the US if Trump won the presidency. A stunning number by all counts. However, we noted at the time that we believed this was an expression of distaste, and that 80% of students would not actually act on these feelings. 

Our science and art of market research proved accurate. A drop in US student enrollment from Mexico did follow the Trump presidency but nothing as dramatic as 80%. Still, it hurt many institutions and stifled opportunity for many students. We suggested that the real drop would likely be closer to 10% during the Trump presidency and in fact, the number of Mexican students enrolling in US institutions dropped by 8% in 2017 and then another 3% in 2018. These drops occurred despite an education initiative in Mexico during that time that set a goal of encouraging 100,000 Mexican students to seek a foreign education.

During this period there were notable increases in Mexican student mobility to Canada and Germany. However, the numbers were still relatively small in these countries. Read on for deeper marketing insights as you consider your international student recruitment strategy for Mexico. 

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Ecuador

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read our recent LATAM recruiting series posts, check out Brazil and Colombia. Today in our series, a look at Ecuador. Not the typical place for universities to invest in international student recruiting, but a valuable consideration as you think about diversifying your source countries.

The US and Ecuador maintain consistent and strong economic ties. On July 1, 2021, Ecuador received 1 million COVID-19 vaccines from the US, with another shipment due to arrive three weeks later. With a population of almost 18 million people, Ecuador’s vaccination rate is close to 25% for the first of two COVID-19 doses. 

According to the most recent SEVIS data from March 2021, the US had 3,025 active students from Ecuador. Of these students, 41% are seeking an undergraduate degree. Currently, student visa processing for requests to study in the US are experiencing the same frustrating backlogs and delays as other parts of the world. Getting recruiting processes back to pre-COVID smooth is going to take quite a bit of time.

With that as an introduction, let’s take a look at Ecuador and the top five student influencers for studying in the US.

Read on for our recruiting insights and a handy (and cool) COVID-19 vaccination rate tracking tool from Reuters — you’ll want to check this as you plan your global recruitment travel as funding and travel restrictions permit. 

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Colombia

Welcome to another installment in our LATAM recruiting series. In part one we shared insights and predictions about Brazilian student mobility. This week, our focus is on Colombia. As you diversify your student sources, Colombia makes for a valuable addition if you are not already active there. COVID creates obstacles for all of our source countries in 2021, but that doesn’t stop us from maintaining important international connections and pursuing the opportunities that endure. 

Let’s get down to business and explore some numbers. According to the SEVIS March 2021 report, Colombia has nearly 10,000 active students in the US, with IIE reporting Colombia 23rd in ranking for sending students to US universities. This same report shows the interest in graduate degrees being the preferred choice with a 34% enrollment rate compared to 25% for a bachelor’s degree and 11% for an associate’s degree.

No surprise, pandemic-fueled personal instability with contributing social and economic turbulence has Colombian students and parents concerned. Taking that into consideration, as well as Colombia having significant income inequality second only to Brazil in Latin America, some Colombian students face seemingly insurmountable challenges when considering tertiary study opportunities.

Overcoming obstacles in this field has so much to do with developing and nurturing the international relationships that turn into pipelines. Consider the conversations your institution already has with prospective students and the channels being used. Faculty connections, alumni connections, agent connections all have value for the intelligence they bring to your planning and the potential for growth. These all play into the digital marketing approach you will deploy to capture greater student awareness and action.

Online Connections Matter

In the latest bulletin (2018) from the Colombian Ministry of Telecommunications, 60% of the Colombian population has Internet access, with more than half of users connecting with mobile phones. Important as you consider your website and landing pages.

Although there is a digital divide leaving countryside dwellers less connected, the larger cities are taking advantage of their 4G services and free wifi hotspots. Facebook and WhatsApp are the most commonly used with We Are Social reporting an increase in social media users in Colombia by 34 million, an 11% increase from April 2019 to January 2020.

Read on for our assessment of opportunities to recruit Colombian students...

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Brazil

Back in March/April 2020, we talked about the big picture factors that would reduce student enrollment in 2020/2021: job/income loss, restrictive student visa and travel regulations, COVID-19 rates of infection, and limitations on the availability of internships and jobs. Now we need to add to those considerations: vaccination rates. 

Following our publication of enrollment marketing insights about the two largest senders of students to the US (Report Links Available Here: China and India), we find ourselves wanting to know more about LATAM countries and whether there are insights to share with our enrollment colleagues.  

According to SEVIS data, there are more than 23,000 Brazilians studying in the US today. Our friends at WENR predict Brazil will become one of the top five countries worldwide for outbound students seeking degree programs by 2035. A lot can happen between now and then. Nevertheless, we know Brazil will remain an important source of students to academic programs around the world.

Setting the Context

Being proactive in our enrollment marketing initiatives requires data which informs strategy. A few grounding points about overall international student mobility from the past year to put our discussion of Brazil’s opportunities in context:

  • IIE’s widely reported analysis showed a 43% drop in international student enrollment in the US for Fall of 2020. 
  • Not all institutions had the same experience. In general, those that typically do well with enrollment continued to do well.
  • With testing requirements dropped by many institutions, application rates are soaring, though enrollment numbers are struggling. Intention does not equal follow through. 

A Little Motivation

We can emerge from this turbulent and unstable environment with knowledge, insight, and better planning that incorporates recent experience and current data. 

Those who win embrace change! Those who embrace change are incorporating the latest tools to segment audiences and target those prospective students most likely to want what their institution offers.

With that, let’s take a look at Brazil’s opportunities. Read on...

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q2 2021

Ambiguity continues as we head into summer 2021. Will international students obtain visas for this fall in time for August orientation? 

We know the US Embassy in New Delhi and the four Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are working it double time to process the same visa volume they had in 2019 but in just 2 months. Go team!

And we know that Chinese student visas are facing a time crunch and additional challenges around the approval rules, especially students admitted to STEM graduate programs. 

While optimism is an important element of any future-focused initiative, facing reality and ensuring your plan can adapt to those realities is more than prudent. It is required. The reality here is that there are significant headwinds that appear insurmountable. Highly unlikely that the enrollment numbers will bear out this fall for many US institutions. Application volume is creating unsupported optimism in this case.

We’ve reported on these topics, collected and interpreted data from multiple sources, and released analyses during this past quarter. From presenting two sessions in partnership with our esteemed academic leaders and global partners at the 2021 NAFSA, to publishing a market research report on the new Indian mindset on US schools, this has been an important quarter for shared insights.

So, grab a cup of coffee and before you finish it, we know you’ll be sharing links from this Q2 2021 wrap up with your enrollment team and colleagues with the power to make positive change for students around the world.

Read on for our quarterly recap of Intead resources available to you — all in one place. Plus, a preview of what’s coming next…

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Is There a New Indian Mindset on U.S. Institutions?

You’ve likely been wondering, and we have too.

We completed our latest market research to answer the question: Are Indian students still interested in pursuing a U.S. education?  The results are compelling and advantageous as you move forward to meet enrollment goals. There is so much ambiguity around student mobility right now; this kind of market research has real value.

Below you'll find the download button to access our latest report on Indian student interests.

With India being such an important market to U.S. academic institutions, Intead and iSchoolConnect conducted a 13-question survey of 19,924 Indian residents that had expressed interest in international education. We had a 3.7% response rate.

This market research about recruiting students from India follows our highly downloaded market research released in March 2021 about recruiting students from China. That report has drawn a lot of attention. If you’ve not already grabbed that one, well...

In this Indian student market report you will value the insights around attitudes towards agents, among other findings. With responses broken down by high school, undergraduate, and graduate cohorts, the report is designed to help you find the information you need, choose recruitment channels, and develop relevant and strong messaging.

Want a sneak peek into our findings (and the download button)? Read on...

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Our NAFSA 2021 Slides Now Available

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Harnessing the Influence of Your Brand Ambassadors

Let’s start with a cool stat: Google searches for “Influencer marketing" grew 1500% in the last three years. In 2019, the term "Marketing influencer" was searched 70,000 times a month! This according to Savica Dimitrieska and Tanja Efremova in their article, “The Effectiveness of the Influencer Marketing” published through Southwest University in Bulgaria.

Think YouTubers and TikTokers – content creators who are generating significant followings and translating that work into cash as they promote various products.

The question is: can this concept work for academia?

Our answer: yes, IF you can achieve true authenticity. If not, no. Full stop.

Academic administrators around the globe may be leaving a gap in their marketing strategy: the power of an influencer, but in the case of education, we are really talking about brand ambassadors who have influence with your target audience. In our view, true influencer marketing, which is growing globally, is a risky bet for the education market. But the concept, if adapted, has merit.

What we are saying is, recognize that you are not marketing alcohol, luxury vacations, apparel, or cosmetics and adjust the concept of “influencer marketing” accordingly. If that is unclear, give us a call.

When it comes to advertising and building trust, gone are the days of faceless testimonials and promotional brochures promising the ultimate educational experience. Generation Z values the opinions of social media influencers and bases their decisions on whether people they can relate to on YouTube give it a thumbs up or down.

A note of caution: marketing today is lightning fast and fickle. Your campus can be in the limelight one second, and culture canceled the next. 

Read on for a few more relevant stats and perspective on how to make brand ambassador marketing part of your approach to student recruitment.

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